A Christian Sings the Environmentalist Blues

There’s something about 36 wool socks, a union suit, various woolies, and one unmentionable tossed in for my own amusement, that brings me joy. All hanging on the clothesline together with the snow as a backdrop, it is art in some sense.

The newspaper ran a short column of mine today in which I come out of the closet as a Christian environmentalist. I suppose this is no great surprise to anybody but myself. However, I’ve had a hard time accepting that label. It wasn’t until one of my neighbors told me about a year ago, after I denied it, “Of course you’re an environmentalist,” that I really started to think about it.

I suppose this label could be ascribed to anyone who loves the land, and is tied to it. In our modern, technological, industrial world, it is increasingly difficult for people to be tied to the land. Food is procured at the grocery store, and most wants are obtained through either the push of a button or of a gas pedal. The real, tangible goods of the world that are necessary to sustain life have been reduced to wealth as an abstraction. Wealth isn’t measured in terms of the productive potential of our land, head of cattle, or access to clean water. Rather, it has been reduced to nebulous concepts that are often only “seen” on a computer screen (shares of stocks, dollars in a bank account, etc). Thus, the necessity of stewardship has also been relegated to the back burner as an abstraction. Very few of us are managing the farm with an eye on future heirs inheriting it, and drawing their living from the land. In those days old farmers were focused on leaving the soil in better shape than they found it. Now I’m rambling.

For some odd reason I find that hanging the laundry, even on this wintry day, helps give me a sense of being tied to the land. It helps me see that we should live within obvious limits that our immediate surroundings possess (maximizing assets and managing limits effectively). Incidentally the clouds came out after I hung these on the line, so today’s experiment may not succeed. That’s ok. One needs the sun to dry clothes in the winter. One of the limiting factors…

Outdoor recreation, year round, is another way to be tied to the land. Yesterday I was fortunate enough to use a fat-bike on some local trails when a local bike shop organized a demo of these two-wheeled tanks. Twenty minutes out and back on the trail made me feel right as rain. These crazy bikes really do enable you to ride a bike like a kid again. I rode my own boring bike back home, straight into a stiff wind, and my grin was somewhat akin to the grill of a ’57 Chevy cruising down the highway. Previously I was feeling run-down and a little depressed.

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I continue to wrestle with this label environmentalist vs. conservationist. The main issue isn’t which to use, although the average Christian would greatly prefer the latter, but that to be an evangelical Christian in the midwest often makes a guy with such sensibilities feel out of place. Sometimes I wish I could just be like everyone else, but alas this will never be the case. Of major concern is that I have never, in more than 20 years of believing faith, heard a sermon in church concerning our responsibility to act ethically and in love with respect to the environment. This is unacceptable in a culture where we are slowly coming to see that we need to make changes to our way of life. Just once a ten minute message was delivered around the time of Earth Day, and I was the one to give it. Kudos to that small church for allowing me to do so though. Many solutions are conducive to the clear teachings of Christ. This isn’t to say that those teachings are easy. Rather, they are incredibly difficult due to their clarity.

Many aspects of our economy are based upon the seven deadly sins. As believers we are called to be God’s redemptive agents in all aspects of life. There is to be no duality of matter vs. spirit. Rather than emphasizing competition, we can live with greater neighborliness, love, and charity, for example. And doggone it all, this doesn’t have to be only reduced to the arena of politics.

Yesterday I found myself in great turmoil. Our family was watching a movie together that had an environmental message. It was the kind of movie that would make a large percentage of sincere Christians uncomfortable, due to the liberal environmental message being promulgated by the Hollywood elites. Sigh……  And yet, there are real issues in our world that require attention. We can’t avoid the conversation forever. I wish this didn’t create such a struggle within me, but it does. I guess the journey continues. I have certainly not arrived, and do not have the answers. This will start an occasional conversation about such matters over here. Most posts on this will be short, and merely serve as an outlet for me to continue to wrestle. I reckon when we stop wrestling with difficult issues we might as well roll over and die.


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